PHOENIX — Jose Jimenez helped console a ‘sad and depressed’ man at a local bar hours before he was found dead in a canal almost three weeks ago, according to a bartender who claims she last saw him alive.
The bartender, who asked 12News not to publicly identify them, was working at Rum Runners Bar on November 5th, when Jose, 47, stopped by and purchased a 16-ounce beer.
Jose had just finished working an event as a chef for Cloth and Flame. Video obtained by 12News shows him leaving the companies’ commissary at BLT Kitchens near Dunlap Avenue and 7th Street at 10:01 p.m.
Surveillance cameras show Jose exiting the building through the east gate. He walks through the dumpsters and goes off the frame.
Jose is seen walking with his bike. He was wearing a beanie and a Chicago Blackhawks hockey jersey. Early reports indicated he had picked up his bike from Little Miss BBQ, where Jose also worked.
The bartender said Jose walked in and ordered a beer. At the end of the bar, there was a man who was ‘slumpy and sad’ and talked about not having enough money to pay for his cellphone bill so it was going to get shut off.
Jose apparently overheard the man’s statements and began “giving him positive affirmations that good things will soon come,” the bartender said. “[Jose] was being a kind person to him and told him to focus on the positive.”
After a brief conversation, the man used quarters to pay for his beer and left the bar, the bartender said. A few minutes later Jose followed.
Jose’s body was found in the Arizona Canal just after 8:30 a.m. on November 6 near Dunlap and 7th Avenues, the Phoenix police department said.
His cell phone and Weinmann bike have not been found.
Jose Jimenez's widow last hear from him via text message after he left the bar. At 10:19 p.m. he told Amanda Nash-Jimenez he was “rolling home, meaning on his bike.”
By 11:37 p.m. she was worried and messaged him, asking him where he was.
At 3:00 a.m. she called several hospitals. An hour later she called several police stations and after six in the morning, she went out searching for him and alerted family.
“We had texted all throughout the entire day,” Amanda said. “He knows he was loved. I know he loves me. He was coming home to watch a Puscifer concert with me. But he never came home.”
Around 9:00 a.m. she called the police to file a missing person’s report but said police did not show up at her house. It wasn’t until around noon that a detective arrived at her home with the tragic news.
Amanda said police gave her her husband’s backpack, which was still wet, but they later came back and took it and said detectives told her “They forgot to DNA swab it.”
It wasn’t until around 2:00 p.m. when Kiara Hernandez, Jose’s co-worker at Lille Miss BBQ, got the news that he was missing. Amanda had not yet notified everyone he had been found deceased.
“At that point, we were like ‘this isn’t like Jose, he just does not go home,” Hernandez said. “At that point, we knew that we needed to look for him.”
She, along with other coworkers canvassed the neighborhood looking for anything and everything that could help the case. Another group of other coworkers, who was also searching, saw someone riding a bike that look similar to Jose’s at the old building on Northern and 27th Avenues where the Kmart used to be.
Hernandez recognized it immediately, because of its distinct stickers. She was also used to seeing it every day at work and felt confident identifying it as Jose’s bike.
“We had our eyes on it for about two hours. We made four 911 calls and mentioned Jose’s name every single call… but police did not come,” Hernandez said. “We ended up seeing someone hop on the bike and take off. By the time we got in our cars, they were gone.”
What happened to Jose Jimenez?
A preliminary medical examiner’s report lists drowning as the cause of death, with alcohol intoxication as a contributing cause.
But those close to Jose say it was normal for him to have one or two beers after work before riding his bike home.
“I don’t think that should be misconstrued in any way,” Nick Rusticus, executive chef at Cloth and Flame said. “If you’ve been in the industry in any capacity it’s not abnormal to have a very busy day and have a post-shift drink.”
Rusticus said he understands that from testing and investigating a death, alcohol in someone’s system can be a red flag, “but I don’t think that is something that should shut down any further investigations into this when everyone that knows Jose is saying there’s more to this.”
He is one of several friends, co-workers, and loved ones who are conducting a “community investigation of sorts” into Jose’s death. It was through their effort, that they tracked down the bartender who last saw their beloved friend and mentor alive and interacting with a “questionable subject.”
The group discovered surveillance video showing Jose leaving work tracked down his past bike routes home, and requested phone records that they say show Jose last got a text message at 10:59 p.m. but by 11:39 p.m. calls to his cellphone were not going through.
Amanda believes his husband was deceased by then.
“We want to do what we can to help,” Rusticus said. “Especially in this case when there’s a lot of answers that need to be solved and there’s a lot of questions that are not being asked. At that point, you kind of have to take it into your own hands.”
Rusticus was one of the few coworkers who last saw Jose on Nov. 5 but said he has yet to be interviewed by police. Video surveillance that they have obtained has also not been requested by detectives, he said.
“We have serial numbers from my dad’s phone, the SKU number to his bike, but detectives haven’t asked us for that information if they can check local pawn shops who might have sold it to them,” said Jose’s daughter, Vanessa Romero. “So, we’re looking into those leads ourselves.”
Because Jose’s cause of death has been listed as drowning, Amanda said a Sergeant on her husband's case told her there was nothing suspicious about it. But she disagrees.
She said as they investigated, they learned her “husband was last seen trying to help somebody who was distraught, unstable, drinking and desperate for money,” but said police have not inquired about this information.
The bartender told 12News they reached out to police and spoke to detectives on Tuesday before Thanksgiving. The next day they said they were let go from their job without a reason.
Amanda said the Sergeant told her it was “a huge possibility” that Jose “might have sat his bike down by the canal, stood over the side of it, relived himself, and slipped in as a result.”
“That is disgusting on so many levels,” she said about that theory.
According to Amanda, Jose was fearful of water and would have not ridden or stood next to the canal. Since they were host parents for international students, she believes Jose would have not risked getting a felony for public urination either.
“It’s an easy way for them to write it off, a drunk man stopped to relieve himself and slipped in, but that’s not what happened, and were not going to let that be the narrative,” Amanda said. “If they don’t want to find out, we’re going to keep looking.”
Phoenix police said the case is still under investigation, pending the final medical examiner’s report.
The family hopes someone will recognize the jersey Jose was last wearing and help them with any leads. They have set up a $5,000 cash reward for information that leads to an arrest.
A candlelight vigil and walk will be held on December 3 at 7 p.m. from Central and Canal on Dunlap and 7th Avenues where Jose was found. The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help cover funeral expenses.
As of Saturday morning, the family has passed their goal of $30,000.
On December 4, friends and co-workers from Cloth and Flame will host “Jose’s last concert under the moon” a benefit dinner and fundraiser at The Icehouse in downtown Phoenix to celebrate his life. The event is from 5 to 9 p.m. Those interested can RSVP here.
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